US President Donald Trump to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in on May 22
Washington: US President Donald Trump will meet with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in at the White House on May 22, ahead of the real estate mogul’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, the administration said on Friday. “This third summit between the two leaders affirms the enduring strength of the US-Republic of Korea alliance and the deep friendship between our two countries,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Trump and Moon will “continue their close coordination” on issues regarding the Korean peninsula and will discuss the inter-Korean summit that took place on April 27, as well as the US president’s upcoming summit with the North Korean leader, Efe reported. Earlier on Friday, Trump said that a time and a place had been set for the meeting with Kim, although he did not provide any details.
The inter-Korean summit came after years of heightened tensions between the two countries, raising hopes that a lasting peace and a denuclearization of the peninsula could soon become a reality. The US President also expressed optimism regarding the release of three US hostages held in a North Korean prison, saying “you’re going to see very good things”.
The Kim and Trump meeting will be the first between the leaders of the US and North Korea, nearly 70 years after the start of the 1950-1953 Korean war.
Former US President George H.W. Bush released from hospital
Washington: Former US President George H.W. Bush has been discharged from Houston’s Methodist Hospital where he had been hospitalised in April after contracting an infection, according to his spokesman, Jim McGrath.
“His doctors report he is doing well and is happy to return home,” McGrath tweeted on Friday. Bush, 93, had been admitted to the hospital after contracting the infection that spread to his blood following the funeral for his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, reports CNN.
Bush tweeted on Thursday that he had “not taken up residence” at the hospital and was waiting for a “green light” to leave. In response to the hospital naming a new atrium after him and Barbara Bush, he wrote on Twitter: “Quite moved by this announcement by @MethodistHosp. The atrium is beautiful, but recent developments notwithstanding I have not taken up residence here.
“The doctors, nurses and support staff are so nice, but the second I get the green light I’m outta here.” Bush’s son former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also tweeted about the announcement that his father had been released from the hospital. “Thanks for all of your prayers. Dad is doing well and headed home,” he wrote on Friday evening.
Google to verify advertisers buying political advertisements
San Francisco: Learning from the Facebook fiasco, Google has rolled out new policies for verifying election advertisers in the US that require additional verification for anyone who wants to purchase an election ad on Google in the country.
“As a first step, we’ll now require that advertisers confirm they are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, as required by law,” Kent Walker, Senior Vice President at Google, said in a statement late Friday.
This means advertisers will have to provide a government-issued ID and other key information.
“To help people better understand who is paying for an election ad, we also require that ads incorporate a clear disclosure of who is paying for it,” Walker added.
The move comes in the wake of strong evidence that Russia used social media and online ads in an attempt to influence the 2016 US Presidential election.
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Google will soon release a new “Transparency Report” specifically focused on election ads.
This report will describe who is buying election-related ads on its platforms and how much money is being spent.
“We’re also building a searchable library for election ads, where anyone can find election ads purchased on Google and who paid for them,” Walker noted.
Google is already investing in keeping its own platforms secure and working with campaigns, elections officials, journalists, and others to help ensure the security of the online platforms that they depend on.
“We’ve developed a range of ‘Protect Your Election’ tools with Alphabet’s ‘Jigsaw’ that are specifically tailored for people who are at particularly high risk of online attacks,” said the Google executive.
“We’ve partnered with the National Cyber Security Alliance and Digital Democracy Project at the Belfer Centre at Harvard Kennedy School to fund security training programmes for elected officials, campaigns, and staff members,” Walker said.
In order to prevent election interference on its platform, Facebook has also introduced new changes to increase transparency and accountability for electoral ads and pages.
To get authorised by Facebook, advertisers will now need to confirm their identity and location.
“Advertisers will be prohibited from running political ads–electoral or issue-based–until they are authorised,” Rob Goldman, Vice President, Ads at Facebook, said recently in a blog post.
Facebook is also investing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and adding more people to help find advertisers that should have gone through the authorisation process but did not.
Donald Trump considers travelling to Jerusalem for US embassy opening
Washington: US President Donald Trump has said here that he was considering travelling to Israel next month to attend the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which is being moved from Tel Aviv. “I may go. I’m very proud of it,” Trump said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House on Friday, Efe news reported.
Last December, Trump directed the State Department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which implies an official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move challenges the international consensus on Jerusalem, which states that the city’s status must be decided through peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Trump said he was “very proud” of the embassy move since it was something that had been promised for many years during numerous political campaigns.
No country currently has an embassy in Jerusalem, as such a move would imply recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city at a time when the international consensus is that eastern Jerusalem is Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Palestinians have considered the embassy move as a provocation that has disqualified the Trump administration from being an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The White House has not confirmed Trump’s visit, while some Israeli media have said that the US delegation will be led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, who are both presidential advisors.
Israel strikes six Hamas military targets
Jerusalem: The Israeli military fighter jets have targeted six military targets belonging to Hamas’s naval force in the northern Gaza Strip, said the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF said the strike on Friday night came in response to “terror activity and mass attempt to infiltrate into Israeli territory earlier in the day”, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Israeli army said in a statement issued on Friday overnight that Hamas led hundreds of rioters in a violent mass infiltration attempt towards Israeli territory, during which they “hurled explosive devices, hand grenades and firebombs at IDF troops and attempted to set the security fence on fire.”
Israeli media cited Palestinian media as reporting that four people were injured in strikes on a position belonging to Hamas at a port in Gaza City in the northern Strip. For several weeks, “Hamas has orchestrated riots as a disguise for acts of terror carried out against security infrastructure, security forces and civilians,” noted the Israeli army.
The IDF viewed with “great severity” the Hamas continued attempts to turn the area adjacent to the security fence into a combat and terror zone under civilian cover, said the Israeli army. “The IDF will not allow the cynical use of civilians, including women, children and people with disabilities as a cover for ongoing terrorist activity against Israeli civilians and IDF troops, and will continue to respond to any such attempts,” said the IDF.
Earlier Friday, three Palestinians were killed and at least 833 Palestinians were wounded in the “Great March of Return” along the Israel-Gaza border for the fifth week in a row, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Vijay Mallya extradition trial: CBI gets boost on evidence admissibility, next hearing on July 11
London: A UK court today admitted the bulk of the evidence submitted by the CBI against Vijay Mallya in connection with his ongoing extradition trial, giving a boost to India’s efforts to bring back the embattled liquor baron to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore.
The 62-year-old flamboyant businessman, who appeared in the Westminister Magistrate’s Court here, had his 650,000 pounds bail extended until the next date of hearing on July 11.
When the court reconvenes, oral submissions will be made on closing arguments to be submitted in writing to Judge Emma Arbuthnot over the next two months. The judge is then expected to indicate plans for a verdict in the case at the next hearing.
During the hearing, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) got a boost as Judge Arbuthnot confirmed that the bulk of the evidence submitted by it will be admissible. Today’s hearing comes days after the Indian government’s High Court appeal against a previous Westminster Magistrates’ Court extradition ruling that had been denied.
UK-based Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, wanted in India as a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hanse Cronje in 2000, had been discharged in October last year on human rights grounds over severe conditions in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where the accused was to be held on being extradited.
District Judge Rebecca Crane had based her verdict to discharge Chawla largely upon the testimony of Dr Alan Mitchell, former head of healthcare at the Scottish Prison Service and an elected member of the European Council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).
Mallya’s defence team has previously deposed the same prisons expert in his extradition case, who told Judge Arbuthnot during the course of the trial that conditions in all Indian jails are “far from satisfactory”.
During the last hearing in the case in March, CPS barrister Mark Summers reiterated that the Indian government had provided further clarifications related to availability of natural light and medical assistance at Barrack 12 of Mumbai Central Prison on Arthur Road, where Mallya is to be held if he is extradited from the UK.
The trial, which opened at the London court on December 4 last year, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against Mallya, who has been based in the UK since he left India in March 2016. It also seeks to prove there are no “bars to extradition” and that the tycoon is assured a fair trial in India over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ alleged default of over Rs 9,000 crore in loans from a consortium of Indian banks.
The CPS, representing the Indian government, has argued that the evidence they have presented establishes “dishonesty” on the part of the businessman and that there are no bars to him being extradited from the UK to face Indian courts. Mallya’s defence team has deposed a series of expert witnesses to claim he had no “fraudulent” intentions and that he is unlikely to get a fair trial in India.
If the judge rules in favour of the Indian government, the UK home secretary will have two months to sign Mallya’s extradition order. However, both sides will have the chance to appeal in higher courts in the UK against the Magistrates’ Court verdict.
First Polar Bear born in the Tropics dies in Singapore zoo
In rather sad and tragic news, Singapore on Wednesday mourned the death of the first polar bear born and bred in the tropical island city, put down by wildlife authorities after a five-year battle with health difficulties because of old age. Inuka, a 27-year-old animal who grappled with challenges ranging from arthritis to dental problems and ear infections, carried until his last days a green tinge in his fur blamed on algae growth, reported Reuters.
“As much as we would like to keep Inuka with us for as long as possible, our ultimate responsibility is his welfare,” said Cheng Wen-Haur, an official of zoo operator Singapore Wildlife Reserves. “The greater kindness would be to relieve him from prolonged suffering,” Cheng said in a statement.
“Please do let him pass on naturally,” said Vanessa S. Wee, one of more than 100 social media users who commented on the zoo operator’s Facebook page. “He is the only tropical polar bear, a true-blue Singaporean, a one-of-a-kind icon,” added another, Anita Ryanto.
The Polar bear i.e. Inuka, or “foreboding strength” in Inuit, was born on Boxing Day in 1990 to parents Nanook and Sheba, who had arrived from Canada and Germany, respectively, in 1978. His father, Nanook, died in 1995 at 18 while Sheba died at the age of 35 in 2012. In the wildlife, the bears have an average life expectancy of 15 to 18 years.
But in 2004, when the fur on Inuka and his mother started turning green, questioning began over the ethics of keeping polar bears in the tropics. The Singapore Zoo said the green tinge was algae growth. In 2004, the BBC said the bears were bleached with hydrogen peroxide. Animal rights groups have urged zoos not to keep polar bears and live them in their natural habitat.
India, Mongolia to enhance bilateral trade, investments
Ulaanbaatar: India and Mongolia today discussed economic cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, energy, services and IT and agreed to explore possibility of launching direct air connectivity between New Delhi and the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a joint media briefing with Mongolian Foreign Minister D Tsogtbaatar after the 6th Session of the Indian-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation here said the two countries agreed to explore ways to identify new areas of cooperation in all sectors of mutual interest and to enhance bilateral trade and investments. Swaraj, the first Indian foreign minister to visit the resource-rich country in 42 years, said India sees Mongolia as a factor of stability in East Asia and believes that Mongolia’s social and economic development is important for peace and prosperity in the region.
During the Indian-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation, the two sides discussed pressing global challenges, particularly the scourge of terrorism and agreed to collaborate bilaterally and in international arena to thwart the designs of those who extend support to terrorist outfits. The two sides also reviewed the progress in the ongoing collaborative projects, including the refinery project selected by the Government of Mongolia for implementation with the support of USD one billion Indian Line of Credit.
“We directed our officials to coordinate follow up action on each side for the expeditious implementation of these projects. Our strong political ties must be complemented by commensurate levels of trade, economy and investment,” she said. “Today, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing large economies in the world. With its rich natural resources and strong aspiration for development, Mongolia can be an important partner in India’s growth story,” she said.
Swaraj, who arrive here yesterday on a two-day visit, said collaboration for the ongoing refinery project is in recognition of this fact. She said Mongolia is not only India’s strategic partner but also a spiritual neighbour. “We share long historical links. Mongolia is well known in India for the valour of her kings and her strong Buddhist heritage. India was among the first countries, outside the erstwhile Communist bloc, to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia,” she said.
Swaraj said in the six decades of the partnership between the two countries, the bilateral relations have grown from “strength to strength”. “This is reflected in our widening and deepening strategic partnership today, based on the common ideals of democracy and freedom, and enriched by mutual respect and trust.” She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “historic visit” in 2015, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia, provided a fresh impetus to the bilateral relations and qualitatively raised the level of the engagement.
“We also agreed that we should make all efforts to maintain and accelerate the momentum of our interaction in all areas.” She said that in tandem with the countries’ “ever growing” engagement, India and Mongolai will have more frequent visits now on at Foreign Minister’s level. Calling upon the Mongolian business community to “seize economic opportunities arising out of “India’s growth”, she said the two countries have agreed to remove institutional and logistical impediments to boost trade, tourism and people to people contacts.
“In this regard, we also agreed to explore possibility of launching direct air connectivity between our two capitals,” she said. In the meeting, they discussed economic cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, energy, services and IT. She said that India is committed for capacity building programmes for the people of Mongolia, including in areas such as, training in English language and IT. She said India looks forward to more students from Mongolia visiting the country for pursuing vocational education and training under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme, also known as ITEC, and through scholarships offered by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.
“We would encourage students from Mongolia to pursue studies in Indian art, music and culture which would further reinforce our cultural links,” she said. In view of the two countries’ common Buddhist heritage, she said, India also encourage students from Mongolia to visit the country for further study and research in the field of Buddhist studies. Swaraj will participate in a special event to commemorate the birth centenary of the Venerable 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, who was not only an eminent Buddhist leader, but also the longest serving Ambassador of India to Mongolia.
The event will mark his contribution to the promotion of Buddhism in Mongolia and to the deepening of civilizational and spiritual bonds between the two countries. She said India and Mongolia share a bond of peace through Buddhism. “As we tread the path of developing our partnership; I am sure, the teachings of Lord Buddha will continue to guide us,” she said. India and Mongolia have close cooperation in trade and economy, science, health, agriculture, culture, education, communication and tourism. The two countries are also working closely to ensure security and curbing international crimes and terrorism. The total trade between the two countries amounted to USD 25.6 million in 2016.
Former US President George HW Bush in intensive care
Washington: Former US President George H.W. Bush is in intensive care after contracting an infection, a day after a funeral was held for his wife, Barbara Bush, the media reported.
Bush, 93, was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital on Sunday morning after contracting the infection that spread to his blood, CNN quoted family spokesman Jim McGrath as saying in a statement late Monday. “He is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. We will issue additional updates as events warrant,” said McGrath. According to a source close to the former Republican President, Bush was admitted to the hospital with an infection that led to sepsis, which can be life-threatening.
Former US President George HW Bush hospitalised a day after his wife’s funeral
He was in critical condition, the source said. The source added that Bush’s blood pressure kept dropping and a couple of times there was serious concern about whether he was going to come through, but that he had been stabilized. But with Bush’s age, his health and with this infection, this is very serious, the source told CNN.
Bush revealed several years ago that he suffers from a form of Parkinson’s disease, which has left him unable to walk, so he gets around either in a wheelchair or a scooter. The former President’s hospitalisation is especially upsetting for his family because it follows so closely on the death of his wife of 73 years last April 17. The family had been worried about how he would deal with her death and such an emotional week, according to the source.
World will hear “positive voices” against rising protectionism at Modi-Xi summit: China
Beijing: China today said President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will discuss the threat of rising protectionism and the “unprecedented” changes in the world in the past 100 years at their informal summit at Wuhan this week and the world will hear “very positive voices”.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi yesterday announced that Modi and Xi will meet in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on April 27-28 to improve bilateral relations and discuss global issues.
During the meeting, the two leaders will discuss the changes that have taken place and which are unprecedented in the past 100 years to exchange views on the strategic over- arching long term issues concerning over bilateral ties. relationship, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
This will bring positive influence to regional and world peace, stability and development and bring more benefits to the people of both countries, Lu said.
As to the background against which this meeting will be held, Lu said, “I believe you are also clear that the world is now faced with rampant unilateralism as well as the rising protectionism in the process of globalisation. All these new trends in the world have to be closely followed and debated.
“Against such back drop China and India have a lot to discuss. We are newly emerging markets as well as developing countries with big population. So we believe the two countries will continue to uphold the globalisation so that it is more inclusive. So we have a lot of shared interests, concerns and positions,” the spokesman said.
At Wuhan, the two leaders will “exchange views on overarching long-term strategic issues as well as the latest trends of the world so that the world will develop in a more stable way,” Lu said.
All these new trends in the world have been closely followed and debated, Lu said in apparent reference to a host of measures initiated by US President Donald Trump in his ‘America First’ policy leading to a lot of protectionist measures including the current trade spate between the China and US.
Lu was responding to question whether there will be a joint message related to trade and protectionism specially against US unilateral protectionism after the meeting between Modi and Xi.
To a specific question whether there would be a joint message related to trade and protectionism especially against US unilateral protectionism, he said while he cannot make any prejudgement ahead of the meeting, “it is sure that the two leaders will exchange views on these issues but I believe you will see and hear very positive voices”.
At the recently-held Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) India and China displayed wider convergence on threats to globalisation and rising protectionism.
NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar had said in his address to the fifth India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) here on April 14 that the world economy is staging a synchronised recovery after a long time.
But the “recovery is marred and disrupted by unseemingly protectionist noises that are coming out from the Atlantic basin from north and America and Europe,” he said in a thinly veiled attack on US and Western countries’ protectionist policies.
He also made a strong case for China to open its import market for India for soybean and sugar after Beijing imposed 25 per cent tariff on a host of products, including the two, following the trade spat with US.
“I was noticing that there are some tariffs you imposed on farmers’ from Iowa and Ohio (in US). May be India can be a substitute for soybean and sugar, if we could access those exports with all the due quality considerations to our farmers. That is very useful,” he told chairman of China’s National Development Reforms Commission (NDRC) He Lifeng at the meeting.
Kumar’s pitch for soybean and sugar exports to China came amid the ongoing trade spat between the US and China following which Beijing had slapped 25 per cent tariffs on American soybean imports in a tit-for-tat retaliation to US President Donald Trump imposing tariffs on a range of Chinese products.
Trump is pressuring China to reduce America’s whopping USD 375 billion trade deficit with China to USD 100 billion.
China had hit back with tariffs on a wide variety of agricultural products such as soybean, corn, beef, orange juice and tobacco which are expected to hit American farmers.
Soybean is regarded as most important for US farmers as China is their largest importer.